Last night I got the triple-threat, full-court-press from my children. It started relatively simple enough, with a question from my oldest, Rowan, on our way home at 8 pm from the 413th baseball game of the season. We're in the McDonald's drive through lane and he says:
"Mom I have a question for you that you might know the answer to"
The jig should have been up right then, because he asks science based questions all the time and I say I don't know buddy, I'm in seminary, I'm not a scientist.
Then the assault of theological, religious, Jesus, death questions began. Because once Rowan opened the door the other two bounded right through it.
"What is God made of?"
"Why didn't God just kill Satan if he knew he was evil?"
"If you're good and you believe in Jesus you go to heaven when you die right?"
"If you're not you go to hell?" says Rowan
"No, no, no, you just stay in the grave." says Harvey
Which then started a whole debate between the two boys about the existence of hell, or whether we just cease to exist after we die if we don't believe in Jesus or if there really is hell and eternal torture for those who deny God.
Take note Rob Bell and Francis Chan, my boys are 8 and 9 and they can give you a run for your money.
"What is sin?"
"What is Grace, mom?"
"Can we just ask forgiveness for all our sins before we do them?"
"What if we are trying not sin and we do something bad and we say we're sorry, does God still forgive us?"
"But what if that keeps happening and we keep trying but we don't want to but we keep messing up?" (welcome to life children)
"What is God made of? Rocks? Clouds? Air?"
"Did God make the earth?"
"What happened to Saul after Jesus' blinded him?"
"Where was God before the earth was made?
"But whhhhhhy didn't he just kill Satan, I don't understand."
"I bet God hates Satan. If I could go back I'd take a gun and shoot him." (obviously that was Harvey)
As I sat there honoring their questions as they all talked over each other. Doing my best to answer them. I underlined two things to them. God doesn't have grandchildren, I can't make you right with him. This is your path to walk and he's so happy to have you this curious about him. And two: you only have to do one thing on this planet, love, God, and others. If you do that from a sincere heart, you'll be fine.
The conversation waned but I have no doubt it will return because my curious little minds still believe Mommy knows things, I have a few more years before I'm an idiot in their eyes. As I put them into bed I found myself analyzing my parenting, my life, my words. I wondered, if I'm even close to the life I'm encouraging them to lead? I felt hopelessly inadequate for a millisecond because I realized, it doesn't much matter how I answer any of these questions for them. I could get them all right, I could actually be theologically accurate before God and that's almost irrelevant if my life is not in harmony with the principles I am teaching them.
These are the most important people for me to spiritually form. I have a strong bias in helping them before anyone else on their spiritual journey. But I can preach sermons at them all I want and they will be absolutely meaningless if I am not living the life I speak of in front of them. My children don't need my words, although they comfort them. They don't need me to quote chapter verse references for the answers to all their questions. They need me to live the priorities I speak of out day after day after tireless baseball filled day. They need my grace in the morning when they're late and space-cadet-like. They need my affirmation at the end of a trying day when they've gotten into trouble at school that they aren't fundamentally flawed and yes people have bad days. They need my peaceful, understanding, graceful responses to their own moral failures. That is the sermon I must preach for them. That is the one I must live. That is the only one I can never do perfectly, hence the feelings of inadequacy. But God chose me for them and I'm going to release my desire for a perfect performance and settle for a sincere, centered, intentionally lived life, just like the one I'm encouraging them to live.